The gentleman's game of cricket is now offering the youth of Haphruda in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir a new innings: Shun violence and instead do constructive work by joining the mainstream.
Once a hotbed of terrorism, Haphruda has slowly but steadily transformed into a peaceful place, which is quite evident from the tremendous response the Cricket Premier League received from the area's youngsters who played in the tournament, and others who cheered for their favourite players and teams.
Haphruda's notoriety as a hotbed of terror and militancy in the 1990s can be gauged from the simple fact that the 50 square km of the forested area there saw the killing of around 1,000 terrorists by security forces over many years.
But things seem to have taken a turn for the better for Haphruda, where as many as 300 youths aged between 18 and 27 years divided into 24 teams participated in the cricket league from October 15 to October 31, 2020.
They all came from hamlets dotting the mountainous area. The final match between Kakrosa United and United Malikpora was held on Saturday amid great fanfare, witnessed by a large crowd cheering and rooting for their favourites amid all the Covid-19 precautions.
This was followed by a blood donation camp where the youth pledged to shed their blood for the nation.
"The success of the cricket league is a reminder of the determination of the Kashmiris to forge a bright future ahead," remarked a senior Army officer.
The entire process was begun from scratch by the local people with the support of 15 Rashtriya Rifles' area unit. The league matches were held at Bhenipora, Vilgam, and Haphruda.
"The youth of Kupwara, by picking up cricket bats and flannels, have shown the way for the rest of the Kashmiris to follow," the officer added.
The officer pointed out that Haphruda's Ramhal, Trehgam and Tralpora blocks now are models of peace in the Valley.
Haphruda was once used as one of the routes by marauding Kabailis while they were on way to loot Kashmir. Terrorists, mostly from Pakistan but also from Afghanistan, Egypt and even Sudan, made this area a staging point for spreading terror further in the Kashmir Valley.
Conditions in the area were so bad that villagers who refused to follow the diktats of Pakistan-origin terrorists were abducted, abused, and tortured, sometimes even till death. Women of all ages were kidnapped and molested by these terrorists.
It was only when Indian armed forces moved in that the forested area infested with terrorists was rid of the scourge.
The Army officer said that the turnaround in Haphruda was all due to the willingness and determination of the area populace to shun violence and embrace peace.
"It is the area youths who have decided to shun violence and put their energies into constructive ventures," he pointed out.